The Otaku Subculture

Although, in Japan, the term Otaku is a broad and general term that can encompass any individual who is a fan of any particular television show, movie, piece of fiction, and hobby. The word, in western countries (like America), is mainly used to specify an particular type of fan of Japanese animation (anime) or Japanese culture; in many cases, western Otakus are non-Japanese. It can be argued that Otaku’s can generally be equated with fans of other forms of media (science fiction, comic books, romance novels etc.), in terms of the amount of investment an Otaku has towards anime or Japanese culture. Despite this I think the Otaku subculture is problematic given the factor of race that is attached to the subculture. The problematic aspect that exists within the Otaku subculture is that, as fans or admirers of what they see as Japanese culture, Otakus essentially wear what they perceive as “Japanese culture” as costume at specified conventions. On one hand, we can see this as a celebration of Japanese culture that is re-appropriated by admirers of Japanese culture. Otaku are trying to appropriate this admiration of Japanese culture into how they see it. However, this appropriation can also be seen as a form of “mimicry”; the fact that Otakus feel that they can appropriate Japanese culture is indicative of the type of weight that the Japanese race carries in non-Japanese countries.

In my own personal opinion, I think that the “wearing” of Japanese culture of the Otaku also plays into dominant representations of “foreign” Japanese individuals in media, for example the correlation between “weird” and “Japanese”. I think that the representations of Japanese that are portrayed by Otaku are mediated by what part of the Japanese culture they are exposed to; therefore not all of Japanese culture is represented by the Otaku, instead they pick and choose certain aspects of Japanese culture and re-contextualize those aspects. From what I have seen in the Otaku subculture, I do see a celebration of certain aspects of Japanese culture; on the other hand, I also see the invisibility of other aspects of Japanese culture, such as the authentic Japanese tradition or other authentic Japanese experiences.

This blog is not meant as a harsh criticism of the Otaku subculture, only my own thoughts on why I think that the subculture might be problematic. The Otaku subculture shows that there are slight nuances that show a dominant hegemony, even in a subculture in which individuals perceive themselves as trying to celebrate a culture. Ultimately, I just think that we have to be more sensitive when celebrating a culture, instead of celebrating a piece of fiction because culture carries a certain weight and implication that fictional characters and stories do not.

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One thought on “The Otaku Subculture

  1. What a great analysis of the Otaku subculture! Very balanced in both pros and cons and excellent connection to dominant hegemonic constructions of Japanese culture.

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